Friday Morning Data Dump

Or, late Thursday night, if you prefer, as we can’t sleep…for reasons having nothing to do with OMW…

THE WNIR DRAMA: A MUST READ for anyone interested in recent WNIR events, by former local newspaper columnist Stuart Warner in one of his old newspaper haunts, the Akron Beacon Journal via Ohio.com. Retired WNIR morning man Stan Piatt opens up to Warner about how his exit from the station was handled. The details are (nearly) identical to unconfirmed rumblings we’ve heard for months now. It’s what we’d have wrote if we were able to confirm. By the way, since Stan Piatt opened up on his situation…no, the “love of his life” is not a now-former or current WNIR employee. She has no ties to Broadcast Park. The piece was posted Wednesday night on Ohio.com, but we just saw the link early this Friday morning. The Warner piece provides an E-mail address for Piatt, for those wishing to contact him directly…

FRIEND OF OMW APPLIES: Good luck to former Rubber City Radio country WQMX/94.9 staffer George McFly, as he applies for the opening at CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 “New 102” left by the departure of “Kory” to Dallas…

NOT FAST ENOUGH: Twitter follower @StevenArmatas: “Any update on when FOX8 will move to UHF so we can get an HD antenna signal down here in Canton?” Our response: “Everything’s on hold as FCC is closed in government shutdown. Don’t hold your breath on Fox 8 moving to UHF, tho. WJW’s app to move to UHF 31 may have been too late, as FCC seeks to repack TV stations below 31 to make room for data services.”

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Heading Into A Grab Bag

As we head into June, which has the potential to be a very busy month for us (both good and bad), let’s let out some more items.

We may be a bit scarce for a while, again, due to Life Intervening(tm), but we’ll be around from time to time…

WHAT COMES UP, EVENTUALLY COMES DOWN: We spent a lot of time with the digital TV transition back in 2009, both here and on our other blog, Ohio Digital TV.

One major change on the TV landscape in Northeast Ohio was the occupant of RF channel 17.

Channel 17 had long been occupied, analog style, by the Canton-licensed facility that ended up becoming religious outlet WDLI, owned and operated by religious broadcasting giant Trinity Broadcasting Network out of Santa Ana CA…and operating out of a large studio building along U.S. Route 62 in the eastern Canton suburb of Louisville.

But WDLI built its digital facility closer to the center of the market, in the Akron FM/TV antenna farm near Rolling Acres Mall. First, a pre-transition facility on RF channel 39, then taking over RF channel 49 when Western Reserve PBS’ WEAO/49 (just down the road) stayed on pre-transition 50 and took analog 49 dark.

Since the 2009 digital transition, that old WDLI analog tower has been sitting out there on U.S. 62…until recently.

OMW readers were there when the former WDLI tower met the ground in a controlled drop last week.

Friend of OMW Geoff Mears, afternoon news anchor at D.A. Peterson soft AC WDPN/1310 Alliance, sent along this picture, and tells us the former WDLI/WJAN studios next to the felled tower in Louisville are tabbed for a major remodel as an expanded audio/TV production house.

Those who grew up within range of the analog 17 signal remember it first as local independent station WJAN-TV aimed at Canton, before its time as a religious outlet under PTL’s Jim Bakker, David Livingstone (where the current calls come from), and the current ownership of TBN.

Digital TV being what it is, the station still appears on digital tuners as channel 17. The original RF channel 17 gave Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 in Cleveland an opening for a much more robust digital signal…and of course, digital tuners still show WKYC as channel 3, WEAO as channel 49, etc., but you know the drill if you read OMW at all…

STUDIO 0: We’ve been getting tips that it looks like Local TV LLC Fox affiliate WJW/8’s “Fox 8 News” has abandoned its “Studio 8” Akron bureau space in the food court of Fairlawn’s Summit Mall.

We don’t know why yet, but OMW hears that “Studio 8” is indeed being abandoned by the folks on Dick Goddard Way.

“Fox 8 News” will obviously continue to cover Akron/Canton news, but we don’t know yet if they’re looking for new space in the Akron area, or if they’ll do the I-77 Shuffle between Cleveland and Akron/Canton.

Of the four local news operations in the Cleveland TV market, only Raycom CBS affiliate WOIO/19-MyNet affiliate WUAB/43’s “19 Action News” doesn’t have Akron area space. WKYC/3 is based out of the United Building on the corner of Main and Market in Akron (former home of “Akron/Canton News”, now shared with Western Reserve PBS and Kent State University’s WKSU/89.7), and WEWS/5 has its Akron bureau in the Akron Beacon Journal building…

99X THOUGHTS: Radio listeners are discovering that if you’re far from Parma, especially to the east or west, picking up Clear Channel alt-rock “99X” on 250 watt translator W256BT/99.1 Cleveland is quite a challenge.

We surely expected complaints from folks in Westlake, Mentor and Fairlawn, where the signal disappeared for us in the heart of the Montrose commercial area. And one listener has trouble picking up “99X” in Strongsville.

To the west, especially, perhaps it’s tropospheric propagation (“trop”) carrying on-channel BAS Broadcasting AC WFRO/99.1 Fremont “Eagle 99” a bit further afield to the east.

But it looks like those 250 watts are also having some trouble getting into downtown Cleveland, perhaps due to those big buildings.

It reminds us of the signal problems Clear Channel sister hot AC WKDD had in the 2001 frequency swap, when it moved from its long-time home at 96.5/Akron to the former WTOF-FM/98.1 Canton stick in eastern Stark County.

At the time, WKDD promoted 98.1 as “the most powerful signal in Ohio!” or something like that.

But the former WTOF-FM’s reach was primarily due to its antenna height, not its base power, and anyone who knows FM signals will tell you that the signal for such a station is “a mile wide, but a foot deep”.

That prompted Clear Channel to quickly move 98.1 to Hartville – closer to Akron. It eventually landed at the former tower site of its original frequency, 96.5, in the former Northampton Township, after a city of license change to the Akron suburb of Munroe Falls.

For the record, long-time personal and professional friend Scott Fybush of NorthEast Radio Watch (go, subscribe, it’s worth every penny!) caught a recent Cleveland Indians game at Progressive Field, and reports that he had mixed “99X” reception results in section 555 with two radios – one, a CCrane “Witness”, showed no sign of picking up 99.1, and the other, an Insignia HD Radio portable, picked it up with a listenable signal. (Of course, that second receiver can also get the “99X” feed on WMMS/100.7’s HD2 sidechannel.)

It should be noted that section 555 is actually blocked from Parma by…the structure of Progressive Field.

It is no surprise that the signal “is what it is”, as a station rep has said on Facebook, and that the station heavily promotes 99X’s feed on iHeartRadio.

But smartphone-wise, at least in the Android version of iHeartRadio, “99X” is buried at the bottom of the listings, well under all of its on-air siblings, and all of the other “Featured” iHeartRadio feeds, including “The Alternative Project”…with an identical playlist to the local alt-rock outlet.

We assume it’s the same on the iOS/iPhone/etc. version of iHeartRadio, as we believe the platforms have feature parity now…

RATINGS TALK: Long-time OMW readers know that we basically don’t report either radio or TV ratings.

The reasons are many: among them, there are only certain numbers we can even report, and they may or may not reflect reality – like the Arbitron “beauty pageant” radio numbers of all listeners 6-plus (12-plus in diary markets).

Thanks to a change at the leading radio ratings service, even that “beauty pageant” is now missing some contestants.

Beginning with the most recent ratings released to the media and the public, Arbitron is only listing stations that subscribe to its service. The stations that aren’t subscribers? They’ve vanished from the reports like they were not even on the air.

Perhaps the best example of the vagaries of the new system comes with the recent Akron ratings. We’ll quote the excellent “Taylor on Radio-Info” E-mail newsletter put out by Radio-Info.com columnist Tom Taylor:

Of the two major local owners, Rubber City Radio is subscribing to the trends, and Media-Com’s not. Rubber City Radio’s country WQMX goes 8.3-7.7. Its rock WONE-FM dips 4.3-3.8. But we’re not able to see Media-Com’s talk WNIR, a 5.6 share in the Winter book. Clear Channel’s hot AC WKDD is a consistent 3.8-3.6. But we’re not seeing any of the normally high-scoring Clear Channel stations from Cleveland like classic hits WMJI (a 6.5 last Fall).

It could be worse…Taylor reports that the entire Knoxville market has no public ratings.

This makes figuring out ratings winners and losers, at least in the “beauty contest”, difficult. And yes, we’ve been given private numbers by various people in the industry, but won’t publish those.

We can’t afford the legal bill from Dewey, Cheatum and Howe, after all. Frankly, we’re not even sure we’re allowed to reprint the numbers we did here. And generally, sources will give us a slice of the numbers that make their own station or cluster look good.

We CAN determine something that is also evident – Arbiton’s “subscriber only” policy means that only stations that subscribe to THAT MARKET’S REPORT are listed.

For example, the stations based at Oak Tree, in Clear Channel’s big Cleveland cluster, have no need to separately subscribe to Arbitron’s Akron market report…since the numbers are already available within the company at Freedom Avenue’s Akron/Canton operation.

Ditto, if Freedom Avenue wants to see how their stations are doing in Cleveland.

But…the clusters generally only sell based on local numbers, anyway. Ask talk WTAM/1100 afternoon mouth Mike Trivisonno about “not getting credit” for his Akron market numbers…he’ll go on about it for an hour.

We also don’t know if some stations are subscribing only to certain Arbitron reports, or if they’ll show up in the reports where they subscribe.

We’re also not surprised to see that the thrifty Media-Com doesn’t subscribe in the Akron market.

TV-wise, at least one station has sent us an official release on improved ratings, but we’re not sure we’ll print it unless we get similar releases from the other three major local stations with news operations…

The Train Goes On

Here we go…it’s time to distribute what we have as of late, and even some stuff we missed…

MORE PRAYERS: It is a scene unlike anything we’ve seen in local media. A popular personality not as a polished TV host, but a crying wife just praying for her husband to be brought back to her.

Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8 News in the Morning” co-host Stefani Schaefer wasn’t smiling about the latest news or Hollywood gossip in her return to the show on Wednesday morning.

No, she was Roger’s wife, giving an update – the first she’s given on TV – on her husband’s medical condition. He fell in a construction accident on April 27th and has been hospitalized ever since.

Surrounded on a long couch by pretty much the entire “Fox 8 News in the Morning” on-air crew, in a very emotional appearance, Stefani thanked viewers for their prayers, which she said were “working”:

“I see your notes on my Facebook page and the emails that you send and the calls to the station. That’s what carried us through. That literally carried us through this,” Stefani said in a message to the multitude of caring viewers. “I can’t thank you enough for your prayers because they have gotten us to this point. I have my husband, and he is alive.”

Stefani Schaefer returns to “Fox 8 News in the Morning” tomorrow…hoping to save her off time so she can spend time with Roger in his recovery, a recovery which she said doctors have told her will have its “ups and downs”.

For those who missed Schaefer’s appearance on Wednesday, the Fox8.com article linked above has video links…

PASSING ON: Sadly, one former local TV personality did not survive the weekend.

In our last update, we told you that Brian McIntyre – the former Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 and Ohio News Network Cleveland bureau reporter – was in hospice care.

And NewsNet5’s Mike Waterhouse reports that facility…the Hospice of the Western Reserve…is where McIntyre passed away Sunday after a battle with cancer:

Two qualities many people most likely recall about McIntyre are probably his smile and ability to make others laugh.

After his stint as ONN’s Cleveland bureau chief, which ended up with McIntyre working out of 3001 Euclid, he became a community relations specialist for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

He leaves Megan, his wife, and Gavin, his son, who will no doubt have help and support from his “family” of co-workers both past and recent…

INCOMING: Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 afternoon mouth Mike Trivisonno has brought aboard another producer.

After Ryan Gohmann left the “Big One’s” afternoon drive funfest – of his own accord, as we earlier reported – it’s night news anchor Glenn Forbes taking on a role that Triv quipped “only seems to last about six weeks, I don’t know why”.

We’ll decline that open opportunity, and note that on Wednesday afternoon’s program, new producer Forbes (“no relation to former Cleveland NAACP chairman George Forbes”) got the usual first day run-through of “Get To Know the Producer”…

OUTGOING: We briefly mentioned the apparent announcement from Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 “Good Company” co-host Andrea Vecchio that she was leaving the program, and sure enough, she is…with no apparent TV destination, yet.

Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Chuck Yarborough weighs in about what was indeed a surprise announcement – to both viewers and co-workers – with a quote Vecchio put up on her Facebook page shortly after our most recent update:

“Well, my immediate plan is to enjoy some time off first,” Vecchio wrote. “My work schedule often included working weekends with movie junket travel and other events around town. I’m definitely in need of some R & R, so I’ll likely visit my family in Florida to unwind. When I get back, I’ll finally have a chance to take in an afternoon baseball game to see the #1 Cleveland Indians! As for work, I love working in Cleveland television. We’ll see what the future holds. I did hear they’re casting for “Iron Man 3″ (wink wink).”

Vecchio is winking, of course, to her “blink or you’ll miss it” turn as a reporter in “The Avengers”, the mega-hit movie that did partial filming in downtown Cleveland. (Hey, didn’t someone open a casino down there recently? We think we saw something about that on TV.)

We have no word on any immediate future gig for Vecchio, either in film or local TV, though it sure sounds like she’s angling for some sort of role on another station…and she’s promising Facebook “friends” she’ll keep them updated on “what’s next”.

WKYC GM Brooke Spectorsky tells Yarborough that “for now”, “Good Company” would continue with remaining co-hosts Michael Cardamone and Joe Cronauer.

We saw CBS Radio AC WDOK/102.1 “New 102” afternoon driver Desiray McCray joining them the other day…we don’t know if that falls under the “let’s get a radio personality to fill-in” rule of local mid-morning talk TV, or if they are actively searching for a third host to replace Vecchio.

Note, of course, that Cronauer had a long radio background (“Brian and Joe”) before becoming a regular “Good Company” fixture…

AVERAGE JOE: Cardamone came to “Good Company” (and its predecessor, “Studio 3”) after gaining a measure of fame as a contestant on the reality show “Average Joe”.

“Average Joe” is coming to Cleveland radio, and we’re not talking about either Cardamone or his former TV show.

This “Average Joe” is one Joe McGuire, who All Access reports has been the APD/imaging director/PM driver at Green Bay WI’s WIXX radio, and takes the 7 PM to midnight slot weekdays at CBS Radio hot AC WQAL/104.1 “Q104”.

McGuire takes the Q104 night slot vacated by Kory, who moved to middays on sister AC WDOK/102.1 “New 102” in the continuing Reshuffle Of The Blocks In CBS Radio’s Wall Of Women (Audiences).

He does indeed go by the air name “Average Joe” in Green Bay, and his bio on the WIXX site is rather, uh, interesting.

“Average Joe” apparently got programmer Dave Popovich’s attention by sending a poster for a resume, and vows to All Access that he’ll attend Browns games…wearing “Green and Gold”. We assume he’s aware that if that “green” looks more like “black”, he’s taking his life into his own hands…

FRANKEN FM SOON?: We were notified by about a half-dozen readers that Cleveland’s assumed-soon-to-be “Franken FM” had taken rather interesting new call letters.

Low-power TV outlet WXOX-LP, which has a construction permit to move to analog channel 6, is now WLFM-LP. The station’s owner, Venture Technologies, moved those calls over from its similar outlet it owns in Chicago.

And of course, it’s not the ability to broadcast an analog TV signal on channel 6 that is in play for any of this.

WLFM-LP (in Chicago) was leased from Venture by former executives of former Clear Channel Chicago smooth jazz outlet WNUA/95.5. When Clear Channel dumped smooth jazz on WNUA for Spanish-language contemporary music, the executives relaunched it on WLFM-LP…which, since the audio of analog channel 6 lands it on the FM band, gave Chicago a new smooth jazz “radio station” at the top of the band at 87.7 FM.

That lasted until just recently, when the group running “The L” shuttered the smooth jazz “radio station”…citing the FCC’s recently imposed 2015 deadline, which will shut down all of the so-called “Franken FMs” by requiring the TV side to go all digital. The audio of digital channel 6 doesn’t show up on the FM band, due to the different technologies.

The move of the WLFM-LP calls to Cleveland’s would-be “Franken FM” (think “Frankenstein”, not Senator and former Air America host and “Saturday Night Live” alum Al Franken) has opened up speculation.

Those doing the speculation are looking at the obvious format holes in Cleveland…let’s see if any of them have legs:

* Of course, with Rubber City Radio flipping WNWV/107.3 back to smooth jazz(/AC) as “107.3 The Wave”, it would be rather unlikely that the WLFM calls get reunited with the former Chicago format. Besides, the calls were more associated with the iconic Chicago train system than any musical play.

* Several wonder if the outlet would become a Spanish-language station, with much more coverage than stations like WNZN/89.1 Lorain and WHWN/88.3 Painesville (both non-commercial). WLFM owner Venture has a history of leasing the “Franken FM” audio signals to ethnic/foreign language operators, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Though the “87.7 FM” audio is on top of the non-commercial band, the license belonging to a commercial TV station means the outlets can sell regular advertising…not just non-comm “underwriting”.

* Alternative rock is another “format hole” in Cleveland, with the flipping of CBS Radio’s WKRK/92.3 from “Radio 92.3” to sports “92.3 The Fan” last August. Of note here: The Chicago station that carried the WLFM-LP calls is now alt-rocker WKQX-LP “Q87.7”, leased from Venture by Merlin Media to replace the original alt-rock WKQX/101.1, which Merlin flipped to all-news as “FM News 101.1”.

Close observers will note here that Merlin Media is the current Randy Michaels Radio Empire, and that Michaels – who used to be Clear Channel’s radio boss – traipsed all over Ohio buying stations for that company. The suburban Cincinnati resident is no stranger to radio in this state.

It wouldn’t take much to create a “Q87.7” clone in Cleveland. But we have no idea if Merlin, as a company, or Randy, as its leader, are interested in such a business opportunity here…

Last Call For 2011

This will be the last regular item until 2012, as we’re going on Holiday Hiatus.

Any major local radio/TV changes will be noted on our social media presence…and a reminder, you don’t even have to be “on” either Twitter or Facebook to find those. Hit this link for our Twitter page, or look at the “OMW on Twitter” section of this very site. The updates are mirrored on both services.

On behalf of the entire Ohio Media Watch staff (OK, your Primary Editorial Voice[tm] and our Secondary Voice, Nathan), we hope you have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a joyous holiday season!

WAVE COMING IN: One reason we’re able to walk away from the blog a little early is that plans have already been announced for Cleveland’s upcoming major radio format change.

On Friday, Akron’s Rubber City Radio Group officially took over WNWV/107.3 Elyria from its long-time owners, Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting. WNWV had been AAA/adult rock “V107.3” (starting briefly as “Boom! 107.3”) since December 2009.

The “Triple A” format was towed away (get it?) at precisely 12 midnight Sunday night going into Monday morning. We dropped in on the signal at 11:59 PM, so we didn’t hear if there was any special sendoff to “V107.3”.

After the legal ID, we heard once-and-future “107.3 The Wave” personality Mark Ribbins give a welcome liner to the station’s “Smooth Jazz Christmas” holiday programming.

And yes, that makes 107.3 roughly the 19th station in the Cleveland market to go Christmas Radio, though with a different take than stations like CBS Radio’s WDOK/102.1 – dubbed “Christmas 102.1” for the holidays – and Clear Channel’s WMJI/105.7. We’re pretty sure there’s a travelers’ information station playing Christmas music somewhere.

The “Smooth Jazz Christmas” programming will end on Wednesday, January 4th, and a banner displaying the “smooth AC” format that’ll debut then now appears on the new Rubber City-owned “107.3 The Wave” website.

We took the liberty of copying the names of some of the artists pictured:

James Blunt, Seal, Anita Baker, Santana, Mindi Abair, Sara Bareilles, Lenny Kravitz, Chris Botti, John Mayer, Fergie

We’ve heard, but have not confirmed, that there will still be some smooth jazz instrumentals in the music mix after January 4th.

Mark Ribbins is obviously confirmed as a new/returning “Wave” personality, and we’ve also heard that Cleveland radio veteran Bobby Thomas is on board as well…though we have yet to confirm which time slots those personalities will occupy.

There should be at least one more local, live weekday personality riding the “Wave”‘s return.

We’ll have much more in our post-holiday return…

SMACKDOWN!: That’s the only word we can use to describe a recent FCC filing in a dispute between two local TV stations. And those gloves? They’re most certainly off.

OMW reported earlier that Local TV LLC Fox affiliate WJW/8 filed to move its over air channel, currently at its old analog home at 8, to RF channel 31 – the channel it used digitally before the national transition to digital TV broadcasting.

We then reported that WJW’s former RF channel neighbor, Winston Broadcasting CW affiliate WBNX/55 (RF 30), filed with the FCC in an attempt to block the WJW move back to 31, or at least get coordination with the station if the station gets FCC approval.

(Of course, despite all these channel moves, WBNX continues to display on digital tuners as “55”, and WJW as “8”, thanks to the underlying digital technology.)

In its filing, WBNX took a shot or two about Local TV LLC and WJW…and boy, has the fire been returned, and then some.

WJW has filed its response to the WBNX filing, and if there are any holds left, they sure haven’t been barred.

In its reply (here, follow along in PDF format!), WJW treats WBNX like a misbehaving child that needs to be sent to its room without supper.

Think we’re kidding? Take a look at this sample:

WBNI frankly deserves to be sanctioned for this filing, but the Commission should not waste any more of its time or resources on WBNI’s Comments. Instead, it should grant the Petition without further delay.

WBNX is referred to in the reply as “WBNI”, for corporate name Winston Broadcasting Network, Inc.. WJW is “Community TV”, short for the local corporate arm of Local TV LLC, Community Television of Ohio License, LLC.

WJW’s reply hits the WBNX filing on many fronts, among them, noting the “new interference” to WBNX’s facility from the moved-back WJW facility is under FCC “de minimis” interference guidelines…in other words, small enough to be allowed under the rules.

WJW rolls out a sample of what it says are 775 E-mails it has received from viewers since the June 2009 transition, complaining of difficulties in receiving the RF 8 signal. (Many of the complaints look similar to E-mails we’ve received here at OMW, and for that matter, we’re in the same boat here at OMW World Headquarters.)

And the WJW filing frequently notes that it’s the Cleveland market Fox affiliate, with “58 hours of local news programming every week”. And then, there’s this sarcastic shot across the bow at CW affiliate WBNX:

(WBNX) trumpets its independence, but neglects to mention that it offers viewers zero local news or public affairs programming. Put bluntly, it really matters if viewers throughout the Cleveland market can’t reliably tune into WJW over-the-air; a few WBNX viewers’ inability to watch reruns of The People’s Court and Frasier is considerably less important.

Ouch!

The filing also confirms, officially, what we’ve heard rumored for the past two years…that WJW was unable to obtain an interference waiver from Lima NBC affiliate WLIO/8-once-analog-35 to build out the 30 kW construction permit WJW still holds from the FCC.

And even then, says the WJW filing:

While former station ownership obtained a construction permit to increase power in conjunction with a new directional antenna that would attenuate the signal in the direction of WLIO(TV) and WWCP-TV, Community TV’s analysis of that solution indicates that any viewership gain realized from the power increase would be more than offset by the loss of viewers in the attenuated areas. Some, but not all, of that loss could be offset by UHF translators in the affected areas.

Though the FCC will likely not act on this request by the end of the year (it is, after all, December 19th), the WBNX filing indicates that it believes the approval will happen even with its objections.

And WJW rejects the “work with us” solution offered by WBNX as well:

(WBNX) is free to evaluate such interference itself and take whatever actions it deems appropriate and economic (such as seeking authorization for a small-area fill-in translator), but there is nothing in the Commission’s rules or cases to suggest WJW is required to participate in that process.

Responding to WBNX’s “they’re just trying to save money” argument, WJW’s reply notes that the station is spending $450,000 in rebuilt and backup transmitter equipment, and an additional $10,000 to 12,000 in power costs for the move…and that they can’t make such an investment in equipment if they’re not assured a move to RF 31 is the permanent solution.

We consider that the FCC is likely to side with WJW, though the move to UHF obviously won’t happen by the end of this year…

MORE TV ITEMS: As noted here earlier, Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 has said goodbye to Romona Robinson after a lengthy run as the station’s evening news anchor (or co-anchor).

We haven’t heard much about who replaces her, aside from the already confirmed information that the station has auditioned anchors from outside the market.

We hear rumors that a woman who’s a top 5 market network O&O anchor could be one of those auditioning.

Over at Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5, the recent spate of hiring continues with new reporter/MMJ Michael Baldwin incoming from Cablevision’s News 12 Long Island in suburban New York City. (That’s the same operation which recently hired former WJW/8 “Fox 8 News” anchor Stacey Bell.)

Also at 3001 Euclid, Channel 5 launched a year-long “Building Better Neighborhoods” project – to deal with the growing number of vacant homes in area neighborhoods due to the foreclosure crisis.

And if it’s nearly the end of the year, it’s time for TV/multichannel provider disputes.

The biggest locally is between Raycom’s WOIO/19-WUAB/43 and AT&T’s U-verse, with both Raycom stations warning U-verse viewers that they could lose the station if an agreement isn’t reached.

Raycom’s side has a page here, we can’t find any similar page on the U-verse site…

PILOT PASSES AWAY: OMW hears that veteran local TV helicopter pilot Bill Asad has passed away at the age of 61.

For many years, Asad has been at the controls of Raycom CBS affiliate WOIO/19’s “19 Action News” chopper.

An OMW reader also tells us:

He was a former Marine and Ohio firefighter and a real class act.

According to his obituary in the Plain Dealer, calling hours for Asad will be Tuesday from 4 to 8 PM, at Busch Funeral Home on Ridge Road in Parma…

THIS JUST IN: WJW/8 Likely Headed To UHF Soon

If you’re an over-air TV viewer tired of not being able to receive Fox programming or local news from Local TV LLC WJW/8 Cleveland’s “Fox 8 News”, here is some GOOD news.

Your long, regional TV nightmare is nearly over.

That’s because the FCC has weighed in on WJW’s request to move its over-air signal from RF channel 8, to its pre-transition UHF channel of 31…off the trouble-plagued VHF band.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released Tuesday, the agency says it is in favor of the move, saying it “warrants consideration”. You can read the notice here (PDF document).

In it, Community Television of Ohio – the local licensing arm of Local TV LLC – makes very clear what we’ve frequently reported here since the digital transition started:

Community Television states that it is seeking the channel substitution because after it terminated analog service on June 12, 2009, and began digital-only operations on its post-transition VHF channel, “a sizeable number of the Station’s viewers could not receive the Station’s over-the-air
signal, and many apparently still cannot.”

According to Community Television, “Viewers throughout the service area have complained about reception difficulties, and, consistent with viewer ratings, many of these complaints come from areas southeast of the Station’s transmitter.”

Community Television also notes that viewers reporting difficulty receiving WJW(TV) invariably report that they have no difficulty receiving the UHF stations in the area.

The FCC ruling agrees, and proposes substituting channel 31 for channel 8 in the Cleveland TV allocation tables, with a new facility on 31 for 600 kW at 317 feet meters…a very similar setup to what WJW had before June 2009, when it moved its digital facilities to the former channel it long used in analog, 8.

The NPRM states that there shouldn’t be many problems on the WJW end, equipment-wise, for the return to 31:

Community Television has selected channel 31 because this was its pre-transition digital channel and it has retained much of the channel 31 transmission equipment.

The bottom line – if you got WJW-DT fine before June 2009, you’ll likely get it again after this is all approved.

And yes, even though the underlying “channel” after this will be 31, something called “PSIP” will continue to identify WJW on your tuner as 8, just as with the other local stations – WKYC, for example, is RF channel 17, but shows up on digital tuners as “3” even now.

And every other TV station in the Cleveland market, save for WVPX/23 (which flash cut on channel 23), is in the same situation.

PSIP is a data stream alongside the digital signal that basically tells your tuner, “yeah, I know we’re on channel 31, but we’re really still 8, display it as 8” as a “virtual channel”.

It’s the same reason WOIO is on RF channel 10 (main) and 24 (Akron-based translator), but still shows up as “19” from either facility…and ditto with Western Reserve PBS WNEO/45 Alliance’s Youngstown translator (W44CR-D) on RF 44.

So, you’re asking, enough of this “PSIP” stuff…when will I be able to watch “Fox 8” on my over-air tuner?

We dug into the process with the help of one of our regular technical advisers, long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush of NorthEast Radio Watch. (And if you haven’t subscribed to NERW, now would be a good time to do so!)

Scott tells us that the process may not take all that long.

By the time a proposal like this gets to NPRM status, it’s basically the FCC saying “we’re going to do this, unless someone has a good reason why we shouldn’t.”

Comments are due 30 days after it appears in the Federal Register (so, probably, about 6 weeks from now), reply comments 45 days after (so, about 8 weeks from now) – and once those are in, the FCC will give WJW the go-ahead and it can flip the switch on the 31 transmitter that’s presumably still in the building in Parma.

Scott notes that if all is in place, WJW could be back on the UHF band by the end of the year.

The one unknown is “Canadian coordination”.

CityTV’s CITY-TV-2, a repeater for CITY-TV in Toronto, has long been blasting 1000 kW analog on UHF channel 31 from Woodstock, Ontario (near London) – a signal we’ve seen on our portable TV set along Ohio’s Lake Erie shore in the two years since WJW initially abandoned RF 31 for RF 8.

But the two stations co-existed for years before the U.S. digital TV transition.

And Canada has completed its own digital TV transition, at least the first major phase – where stations in “mandatory markets”, such as London, have to convert to digital. (Well, aside from the CBC in London and some other markets, which got a year extension, but that’s another story.)

We’ve done some digging, and it appears that CITY-TV-2 did indeed convert from 1000 kW analog to 20 kW (!) digital at the end of last month.

With WJW’s historic presence on RF 31 pre-transition, co-existing with CityTV’s much more powerful analog Woodstock facility for years, it’s quite possible all is OK with Canadian coordination.

But the big move that allowed the FCC to green light the WJW move was much closer to home.

From the FCC NPRM notice:

At the time it was filed, Community Television’s proposed channel 31 facility caused impermissible interference to the facilities proposed in a pending digital flash-cut application for Class A television station WRAP-CA, channel 32, Cleveland, Ohio. By letter dated September 1, 2011, D.T.V. LLC, the licensee of WRAP-CA, notified the Commission that it was surrendering its Class A status and asked that the station revert to low power television status. As a secondary low power television station, WRAP-LP is no longer entitled to interference protection. Thus, Community Television’s proposal now complies with the Commission’s interference protection rules.

We don’t know for sure, but we suspect WRAP-CA came to some sort of deal with WJW, perhaps with “Fox 8” offering to help pay for the small station’s digital conversion. That’s just a guess on our part.

We’re affected by all this here at OMW World Headquarters.

Though our primary source of local TV signals is Time Warner Cable, we had a TWC outage at a very bad time for us – Sunday evening, 15 minutes before one of the few shows we take time out to watch, CBS’ “The Amazing Race”.

We were able to see that show, thanks to WOIO’s new RF 24 translator on the WVPX/WONE tower near the remnants of Akron’s Rolling Acres Mall and our two digital over-air tuners.

But while waiting for Phil Keoghan to send off the “Amazing Race” teams to their next adventure, we flipped over to “Fox 8”, and have no idea what the Fox network was running, as we had a blank screen…

Early Week Pileup

Some items have been piling up here at OMW World Headquarters, so it’s time to clear the traffic lanes…

QUICK EXIT: Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 “NewsChannel 5” has parted ways with reporter/anchor Justin Michaels, rather suddenly.

From a brief station memo about his exit from news director Jill Manuel:

I want to share the news that Justin Michaels is no longer with NewsChannel 5. Please join me in wishing Justin luck in his future endeavors.

From what we’re hearing out of 3001 Euclid, Manuel could well have added “…but don’t let him back in the building.”

OMW hears that Michaels’ exit happened after he had more than one open confrontation in the newsroom, and that it’s probably not likely that many NewsChannel 5 staffers will meet him for coffee any time soon…

IT’S SD INSTEAD: For some time, over-air viewers of New Vision CBS affiliate WKBN/27 Youngstown got a bonus – a full high definition simulcast of “Fox Youngstown” on WKBN’s 27.2 subchannel.

This especially served its purpose when the true home of “Fox Youngstown” was WYFX-LP/62, an analog station that was once paired with now-dark WFXI-CA/17 Mercer PA as “Fox 17/62”.

Of course, New Vision recently converted WYFX-LP to digital low power status, and is broadcasting (in HD) on the new WYFX-LD 19.

At some point, observers expected New Vision to downgrade the HD simulcast on 27.2 to standard definition, and that, they have finally done.

Viewers in the market say it appears to be deliberate…27.2’s PSIP information has changed to “WYFX-SD”…so now, the only over-air HD source for “Fox Youngstown” ls WYFX-LD 19. (Of course, “Fox Youngstown” is also available in HD on local cable systems.)

That has some over-air viewers with HDTV sets outside the immediate Youngstown/Warren/Niles area upset (not to mention some on the eastern edge of the Cleveland/Akron market), because WYFX is a low-power station.

We don’t know why WKBN decided to flip 27.2 to SD, though there are some advantages…for one, the move returns WKBN’s main CBS and local HD programming to full 1080i resolution. now that 27.2 is back to 480i.

When the “Fox Youngstown” HD signal was added (at 720p, Fox’s standard), the 27.1 CBS/WKBN side was downconverted to 720p, and some noticed occasional picture glitches.

We have also heard speculation that Fox forced the move, now that WYFX has an HD signal of its own, but we can’t at all confirm that..

ANN’S CORNER: OK, so we only call it that because this item involves Kent State University public outlet WKSU/89.7’s “Folk Alley” programming service… and because it came from Good Friend of OMW Ann VerWiebe, WKSU’s marketing type and official OMW Handler.

(Again, we’re pretty sure WKSU doesn’t pay her any extra to deal with us, much like public media counterpart Western Reserve PBS doesn’t pay Diane Steinert extra for that additional, unofficial title.)

Ann tells us that Folk Alley will be teaming up with NPR Music to webcast an important awards event:

Join Folk Alley and NPR Music for a live webcast of the 2011 AMA Awards and Honors show, Thursday, Oct. 13 beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. The webcast is hosted by veteran Americana music radio DJ Jessie Scott and music critic Ann Powers and it will be streamed at FolkAlley.com and NPRMusic.org. Performances will be archived for on-demand listening. Leading up to the event, both websites will host a sidestream of music by this year’s AMA nominees and past winners.

Presented by the Americana Music Association, the annual Awards and Honors ceremony returns to the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and features performances by roots music stars and emerging acts. Grammy Award-winner Jim Lauderdale acts as the on-stage emcee – inviting the best in Americana to the stage.

WKSU is pretty much a typical NPR local affiliate on the radio side, but Folk Alley continues to operate on the national stage…

JIM’S BACK: Our best “get well” thoughts to nationality/standards WKTX/830 Cortland operations manager/chief engineer James “Jimmy” Georgiades.

His fiancee, a regular OMW reader, tells us that Georgiades has been at home recovering from a heart attack late last month.

With the WKTX staff holding the place together and keeping it on the air while he recuperates, Georgiades will still do his regular radio show, “Dimitri’s Greek Radio Show,” on Sunday afternoons from 3-4 PM (in the Greek language).

We’re told that he thanks everyone (his family, friends, co-workers, and colleagues) for prayers, thoughts, and support he has received…

Changes Afoot

There are lots of changes coming in local radio and TV, and it’s time to bring them to light.

We’ll start on the TV side, first…but sports radio is in the on-deck circle…

NEW ANCHOR: Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 has been taking its time and shuffling around its schedule after the departure of market icon Ted Henry.

But it appears it’s filled at least one of Ted’s roles – 11 PM co-anchor.

MediaBistro’s TVSpy, the entity once known as “ShopTalk”, has confirmed earlier rumors about “NewsChannel 5″‘s latest hire.

Chris Flanagan, who was most recently an anchor at WFAA in Dallas, is joining WEWS in Cleveland.

Flanagan comes to 3001 Euclid a few months removed from Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA/8’s morning show “Good Morning Texas” – his bio says he joined the station in 2009.

When he left WFAA, we don’t know, but based on the activity on his WFAA Twitter account, late June would be a good guess.

We also don’t know the extent of his duties at “NewsChannel 5” here.

We have heard from our sources in the building that the station has been auditioning a wide variety of potential 11 PM co-anchors to sit alongside Danita Harris… so many that it’s been hard to track the individual auditioners…

THE WKNR SHOE DROPS: Not that we didn’t expect this, because the competitive landscape has certainly changed in Cleveland sports radio recently, but footwear is hitting the ground at the Galleria.

Faced with direct, in-format competition for the first time ever – CBS Radio sports WKRK/92.3 “The Fan” – Good Karma’s WKNR/850 “ESPN 850 WKNR” has hit the reset button on much of its schedule, again.

And the biggest change affects one of the most competitive time slots for male-targeted spoken word radio in Cleveland, afternoon drive.

OMW hears that starting Monday, veteran reporter Bruce Hooley, and existing WKNR staffers Greg Brinda and Chris Fedor team up for a new three person afternoon drive program.

Hooley has been a frequent WKNR voice talking about Ohio State Buckeyes sports, participating in various Buckeyes shows surrounding the team’s play-by-play on WKNR.

He covered the Buckeyes for the Plain Dealer, and worked at Buckeyes flagship WBNS-FM 97.1/AM 1460 “The Fan” in Columbus…where his aggressive take on now-former Buckeyes football coach Jim Tressel and his recent travails may not have won him some friends. (Yes, it is Columbus we’re talking about.)

We hear that Hooley, Brinda and Fedor will all be billed as co-hosts on the new WKNR afternoon drive show, with Fedor also handling “SportsCenter Updates”.

The new hosts will have to deal with the very competitive afternoon drive landscape for talk shows aimed at male audiences.

That list starts with long-time ratings champ Mike Trivisonno at Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100, and popular younger demo host Alan Cox down the hall at Oak Tree on rock/talk WMMS/100.7, and what quickly has become the strongest show on “92.3 The Fan”, “The Bull and The Fox” with Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber and ex-Buckeye Dustin Fox.

And that’s not even counting shows like Michael Baisden’s syndicated talk show on Radio One’s urban AC WZAK/93.1, which is a ratings powerhouse.

What happens to WKNR’s “Afternoon R&R”, the afternoon drive show which featured long-time sportscaster Michael Reghi paired with WKNR veteran Kenny Roda?

It’s moving, mostly intact.

From Roda’s own Twitter account:

4 those of U already asking,No I didn’t get fired(sorry haters),moving shifts with Reghi from 3p-6p to 9p-12a & covering Cavs,Indians & OSU.

That’s why we say “mostly intact”, as Roda won’t be co-hosting with Reghi when he is covering games for one of the teams.

That won’t happen much in the next few months in the 9-midnight shift, unless the NBA and its players actually get their collective acts together and end the NBA lockout.

The Indians have done their part…ending their season before “R&R” makes the move to late nights. And tOSU rarely plays on weeknights.

We haven’t actually heard it, but we understand that midday host Tony Rizzo has been doing double duty this week, as “The Really Big Show”s ringleader from 9 AM-1 PM, then in afternoon drive filling in for the moving-to-nights “R&R”.

When Hooley, Brinda and Fedor take over afternoon drive, back at 9 AM-1 PM, Rizzo will be without Fedor (aka “Negative Ned”) on “The Really Big Show”. But no, we haven’t confirmed (on this end) any role change for the remaining co-host on the midday show, Aaron Goldhammer.

Unaffected on the WKNR schedule: “Munch in the Morning” (local, Mark “Munch” Bishop, 5-6 AM), “Mike & Mike in the Morning” (ESPN, 6-9 AM), “Cleveland Browns Daily” (Cleveland Browns-produced, 6-7 PM) and “Xs and Os with the Pros” (local, LeCharles Bentley and Je’rod Cherry, 7-9 PM).

Though it could easily be said that the Galleria is directly responding to its new in-format competitor, “change” is very much the buzzword for the station’s afternoon drive show.

Just in the time since Craig Karmazin’s Good Karma Broadcasting bought WKNR (late 2006/early 2007), the station has gone through a parade of afternoon hosts…including Roda (as a solo host), Bishop (now early mornings on WKNR and mid-mornings on WWGK/1540 “KNR2”), Reghi (as a solo host) and the most recent configuration of Reghi and Roda as co-hosts.

As for Brinda, he’s been all over the WKNR schedule. About the only time slot he hasn’t hosted is Bishop’s current time slot.

A big thanks to our Secondary Editorial Voice(tm), Nathan Obral, who’s been tracking this minute by minute on his own Twitter account

BOUNCED LATER: We have been tracking the debut of “Bounce TV”, the African-American-themed subchannel set to launch on Monday.

“Bounce TV” launched, alright…just not with Cleveland aboard.

The channel will still come to a subchannel of one of the local Raycom Media stations, but not until January.

That’s according to the “Find Us” section of “Bounce TV”‘s website, which says the new network will launch in January 2012 on WUAB/43.3.

(You have to mouse over the dot representing Cleveland on the map to get that information.)

WUAB’s Raycom sister station in Cincinnati, Fox affiliate WXIX/19, also lists a January launch.

Why? We don’t know…but “Bounce TV” will apparently still be seen here…just not now…

DON’T KNOW, YET: But…we’re tracking it.

OMW hears that Melodynamic gospel WCER/900 Canton “Joy 900” hasn’t been pumping out the gospel music, or anything else, the past few days.

The station has been operated under an LMA by Curtis A. Perry III’s “CAP III Productions”, which formerly had a deal with WINW/1520 – and moved its programming to WCER after 1520 had been silent for some time.

Perry, on behalf of owner Pinebrook Corporation, had filed a petition for reconsideration for the deletion of WINW’s license at the FCC.

The FCC has finally responded to that petition – dropping it, but reinstating WINW’s license anyway (link corrected 9/29).

(The petition has disappeared from WINW’s application records on the FCC site.)

There is probably some story connecting all this, but we don’t know it yet.

We do know that an OMW reader recently drove by Perry’s studios on Tuscarawas Street in downtown Canton, and found no lights on….

TWO YOUNGSTOWN NOTES: A couple of notes from the Mahoning Valley, one TV-related, one radio-related.

* OMW hears that Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 “WFMJ Today” morning co-anchor Scott Schneider has announced, on the air, that he’s leaving at the end of the year. We don’t know where he’s going…

* OMW hears that Clear Channel classic hits WBBG/106.1 is already promoting the fact that they’ll air Christmas music – yes, we said “Christmas music” – but thankfully, they’re not starting the Yule Tunes here in September. The start date will be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving…